Being successful with finance and investing is as complicated as you would like it to be.  If you want to keep things simple then your personal financial plan could be as simple as doing the following steps:

  1.  Minimize debt and eliminate necessary debt as quickly as possible.
  2. Take advantage of opportunities for “free money” or to grow your money in a tax-advantaged way.
  3. When it comes to investing, keep costs low and invest in diversified index funds.
  4. Become literate in basic financial concepts.
  5. Hope for the best, but be ready for the worst (or the unexpected).  This means you need certain types of insurance.
  6. Enjoy what you have.  Avoid the pitfall of comparing yourself to others.

Let me address each of these topics briefly here.  There will be detailed posts addressing individual topics in the future.

1.  Minimize debt and eliminate existing debt as quickly as possible.

This might seem obvious, but unless you have wealthy parents who are willing to foot the bill for your education then debt management will be crucial to your success and your happiness in dentistry.  Which dental school is best?  Generally, the one that will leave you with the least debt.  That should be your number one priority.

If you have options that are close in cost, then other things come into play such as the desirability of the location, the specific opportunities available at that particular school etc.  If you are accepted to an expensive “name brand” type of school that will cost you $400k and a less prestigious, state school that will cost you $250k then you should go with the state school.  It’s really that simple.  If there is reason to believe the training at the cheaper school is truly lacking, then that might be a different story, but if you can get a good dental education for less money then do it.  You can get into a specialty residency from a “lesser” school.  Just ace the boards and make sure your resume shines.  As with any educational experience, you will get out of it largely what you put into it.

Having a burdensome debt can limit further opportunities, increase stress, and hamper your path to future financial success and independence.  Avoid debt as much as possible!

Future topics I will cover on this subject include choosing a dental school, minimizing debt while in school, financing your dental education, managing your debt post-graduation and debt management for practicing dentists.